THE INNERMOST RITE OF EGYPTIAN TEMPLES
f | \HE answer which I sought to the mystery of Osiris's I legendary murder came to me at last, when I had I travelled farther up the Nile and devoted myself to JL a study of the best-preserved large temple to be found in Egypt, that of the goddess Hathor at Denderah, which the soft warm sand had completely covered and preserved for much more than a thousand years. I had climbed up an extraordinarily narrow and worn stairway on the northern side. I stopped now and then to examine, by the light of my torch, the sculptured scenes which appeared on the walls all die length of this staircase. They depicted the most important ritual-procession of the temple—that of the New Year—moving onwards with the Pharaoh himself at its head. Priests, hierophants of the Mysteries, and standard-bearers took their carved way upon these walls as they must have taken their living way up these steps. I stepped out of the gloom with them into the brilliant sunlight, and walked across gigantic roofing-stones to a small temple which stood, secluded and alone, in a corner of the roof-terrace. It was supported by Hathor-headed columns.
I penetrated inside, and recognized the place as a sanctuary where the Osirian Mysteries were performed as late as Ptolemaic times, Its walls were decorated with chiselled reliefs showing Crisis extended on a couch, surrounded by various attendants and incense Jbraziers. Hieroglyphs and pictures told the whole stoiy of Osiris's death and resurrection, and inscriptions gave the apportioned prayers for the twelve hours of the night.
I sat down on the floor, that was really part of the temple.roof itself, and gave myself up to renewed meditation upon the old legend. And when I had dangled my plummet long enough and deep enough there flashed across my mind the real, truth, whose ^ distorted fragments had come down through the centuries in the form of this fantastic tale of Osiris's dismemberment and subsequent piecing together*